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NYCFC’s Patricof: Harlem Yards isn’t happening

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Apparently it’s not an “active” site, whatever that means.

Proposed Harlem Yards stadium

Remember the Harlem Yards stadium proposal? Remember how people got excited about it? You can shelve that excitement.

According to team president Jon Patricof, New York City FC isn’t focusing on Harlem Yards as a site for its stadium. Patricof spoke with reporters at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Pigeons’ new training facility in Orangeburg, NY. As you’d expect, he was asked about Harlem Yards.

”We submitted something to the State [of New York] as part of a request for expressions of interest,” said Patricof about the Harlem River Yards site. “But that’s it. That site is not an active site.” Patricof then proceeded to give the same old, tired palaver about how the team is “highly focused” on finding a site within the five boroughs.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Patricof’s response when asked which sites were active was:

”Each one is complicated, but we’re committed to the five boroughs, public access to transportation, and the answer is there are sites out there and that we feel confident we’ll be able to secure one of them and develop it.”

This falls under the category of water being wet, dogs biting men, and other examples of the obvious being stated. Of course finding a stadium site -- let alone building one -- within the confines of Gotham is complicated! This is why it took the Red Bulls ten years to find and build a stadium, before they finally gave up and built Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. That task has not become easier in the near-decade since.

At this point, I’m calling bull on Patricof’s claims. I’m willing to bet a Shake Shack doublestack that NYCFC have made little to no progress on finding a stadium site. If they’d had, they wouldn’t hide behind the flimsy veil of “active sites” and “things being complicated”. If you’ve read my writing here over the past five years (!), you know that I hold honesty and transparency as cardinal virtues. These are two things that this club just isn’t good at doing -- whether it was the fiasco with Frank Lampard, or this burgeoning mishegas with finding a stadium.

I’ve written that Yankee Stadium is the club’s home for the foreseeable future, but that’s not a permanent solution -- and it shouldn’t be. The Yankees certainly don’t want it to be! I can understand why Don Garber greenlit the admission of NYCFC in 2013 without a clear stadium plan in place; it’s tough to deny entry to a team in America’s top media market when you’re struggling for viewership.

But this is now a sick, sad, unfunny joke. New York City FC cannot be a flagship club for MLS while it’s a minor league tenant in a Major League Baseball stadium ill-suited for soccer. I don’t need to reiterate all the reasons it’s bad, both from an athletic perspective and a perception point. You’ve heard, seen, and read all that; a further recitation is needless. New York City fans should really stop pretending that Yankee Stadium is a preferred option for the team they support; all that does is let a front office off a hook they fully deserve to be hung up on.

Fans of this team deserve the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They deserve to hear more from Patricof than this tired rigmarole. Let’s be clear: if there were sites in actual, active development, you would know about them, because they would’ve leaked by now. A development like a stadium can only be kept under wraps for so long. Once it hits the actual planning and proposal stage -- as it did with Harlem Yards -- it’s going to leak. The fact that nothing’s leaked from all these “active” discussions is all the circumstantial evidence you need that there’s nothing there. That it’s all folderol, meant to quiet deserved questions.

Meanwhile, New York City fans watch stadiums being built in St. Paul, MN, and Orlando, FL and, get a load of this -- LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, only the second largest city in the country -- and wonder when, if ever, they’re going to graduate to a place of their own within the five boroughs.

The answer that Jon Patricof doesn’t want to own up to is: never.

And if I’m wrong, I’m happy to buy him that Shake Stack doublestack. And I’ll be the first to write it up here.